December 13, 2018
0 Comments
0

Stories of survival inspired this teen to launch a website for victims of sexual assault

A Maryland high school junior invites survivors to share their stories with the goal of ending the stigma of rape in the U.S.

Maryland high school junior Maya Long created a website for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories. The nonprofit LearnServe International helped Maya hone her idea and turn it into the website, It’s Mine to Share. Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

A year ago, a friend of mine revealed to our whole school that she was sexually assaulted. Last month, a family member of mine admitted that she was raped at a young age. Yesterday, I was catcalled on the streets of Arlington. I can’t imagine how my friend and family member feel, but I can say that despite nothing more than a few obscene gestures thrown my way, I still felt terrified of what would happen. And as I write this, I think, “what if?”

When I joined LearnServe, I was set on finding solutions to end bullying in Maryland Public Schools. I experienced harsh bullying as a child, and I never wanted any child to feel that kind of pain ever again. My mind was not on sexual assault at the time, but when my friend revealed her story to our school, I changed my mission. A year ago, I couldn’t fathom the idea of being catcalled, let alone feeling scared of being raped. Her courage to share what she experienced turned my own fear into anger and a passion for bringing change.

At It’s Mine to Share, we strive to create a safe space for survivors to share their stories on their terms to a loving community of readers.

I created It’s Mine to Share. In a nutshell, It’s Mine to Share gives sexual assault survivors a safe space to share their story on their terms through the medium of a website. With anonymity or not, with as much or little detail as they like, I hoped to give them as much control as possible. At It’s Mine to Share, we strive to create a safe space for survivors to share their stories on their terms to a loving community of readers. We hope to reduce the stigma of rape in the United States and help as many survivors heal as possible. We have also made it one of our missions to provide users with links to experienced and equipped organizations where they can receive help if necessary.

After creating It’s Mine to Share, I was approached by the same friend who spoke about her sexual assault. She told me two words that made everything I was doing worth it: thank you. Her words were a powerful reminder that what I was doing was necessary.

Sometimes when I mention It’s Mine to Share, people ask, “how did you figure out how to do this?” or they say, “you must be really clever, I wouldn’t know how to create a nonprofit. How did you?” The response I give is always followed with questioning expressions: It’s not about being clever. I credit a lot of my ideas to my work with LearnServe, and to conversations with my peers in the LearnServe Fellows and Incubator programs. LearnServe has changed my life. As cliché as that sounds, I genuinely believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today if LearnServe wasn’t in my life. Their programs have helped me gain confidence, team building skills, public speaking abilities, and best of all, a passion for helping others and making a difference.

My father often says to me, “I wouldn’t have recognized you a year ago.” LearnServe taught me to voice what I believe in, to stand up for what’s right, and to speak up for those who feel they cannot speak for themselves, until they feel they can. LearnServe also taught me how to create what is necessary for customers and how to budget correctly. I could go on and on about what Learn Serve has done for me, but I’d be writing all day.

I’ll end with a quote from Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, that helps me believe that what I’m doing it important: “Even if you fail at doing something ambitious, you usually succeed in doing something important.”

Maya Long

Founder of It’s Mine to Share

Maya Long is a junior at Sandy Spring Friends School in Sandy Spring, Maryland. She was a LearnServe International Fellow in 2017-2018 and is currently a student in the LearnServe International Incubator program. Maya also enjoys soccer, student leadership, and writing.